Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Protect your Business and your Employees with a Social Media Policy
The Telegraph article “Britons unaware of legal risks of posting online” published on Tuesday 1st November, really puts into perspective how careful we should all now be when using social media. Amongst other things, the article mentioned that the same laws that apply to material published offline are also applicable to those posted online.
As an active user of a seemingly never-ending list of social networking websites, you can’t help but feel slightly uneasy about the potential legal implications of a comment online. Particularly when you consider that according to research referenced in the article, the majority of users are in ignorance of these laws, and over the past year, internet libel cases have increased ‘significantly’.
It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that a survey found that over half of managers have concerns towards employee use of social networking websites in the workplace. This concern is reflected in nearly a third of companies in the UK having opted to restrict employee access to online social networking sites whilst at the office.
A simple Google search of ‘social media and legal issues’ will return an abundance of stories on employer and employee lawsuits over alleged social media misconduct. Comments, for example, posted by employees online that have been deemed to bring the company into disrepute or perceived to be damaging. The outcome of the legal battles often hinge on a social media policy being established by the employer beforehand.
It seems obvious to have a social media policy when it is beneficial to both parties. The policy will ensure that employees are aware of what the company deems to be both acceptable and unacceptable conduct on social networking websites in the workplace and at home. The study found that over half of Britons were unaware of their legal responsibilities on social media so providing employees with this information could be particularly beneficial. Furthermore it provides protection to employers in the event of dismissal if the employee fails to abide by the established social media policy and thus is guilty of gross misconduct.
With so many stories being documented of employer-employee social media lawsuits, you would expect employers to quickly implement a policy which provides information and safeguards for both parties. Yet somehow many companies are still slow to react this. Knowing, however, is half the battle.
Social media expert Katie King and employment law specialist, Pam Loch are holding a training course on how to Protect your Business when using Social Media in Tunbridge Wells on 7th December. All attendees will leave with a contract of employment that incorporates social media clauses and a social media policy for their company. Click here for more details.